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General Discontent October 5, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Afghanistan, Constitution, George Bush, National Politics, Obama Administration, Politics.
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GenMcChrystal_previewI saw an interesting roundtable discussion on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” yesterday morning.  The discussion topic was Afghanistan and Commanding General Stanley McChrystal’s comments in London late last week.  When asked if he could support a new Afghan policy of more hands-off engagement via unmanned drones and special forces operations, McChrystal bluntly answered no. 

“Waiting does not prolong a favorable outcome,” McChrystal stated.  ” This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely, and nor will public support.”

Apparently, the White House was not pleased.

During the ABC discussion, conservative columnist George Will (who recently advocated such a policy) defended McChrystal by saying that since the Obama administration did not seem to have a strategy for Afghanistan, General McChrystal gallantly stepped into the breach and gave his commentary.  Will made it seem as thought there was nothing wrong with that. 

Thank goodness for Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation magazine.  Vanden Heuvel said that she thought that what McChrystal had done “forces us to think very seriously and in a hard way about civilian control of the military.”  She further said that McChrystal should refamiliarize himself with article two of the Constitution that makes the President commander-in-chief.   

The other members of the panel were not having any of it.  As George Will gazed patronizingly at vanden Huevel, Cokie Roberts said that she thinks that McChrystal understands who the commander-in-chief is; all he was trying to do was influence the President’s decision, like everyone else is, as though he has a right to do so.

Wrong!  As any man or woman who has ever served in the military can tell you, your right to free speech ends the day you are sworn in.  The person who is higher in rank is NEVER questioned publicly.  The Commander-in-Chief is the highest ranking official of all, yet here we have McChrystal, Petraeus, and Admiral Mullin publicly stating that any policy that the President comes up with is unsupportable unless it involves committing more troops. 

During the Bush administration, the concept of civilian military control was severely damaged.  By their insistence that the President must “listen to the Generals on the ground”,  the Bush White House blurred the concepts of “listening to” and “following blindly” military recommendations.  This lexicon has made it into every day conversation and has infected the public debate. 

Given that broad strategic decisions, such as the decision to declare a war, start an invasion, or end a conflict, have a major impact on the citizens of the country, they are seen by civilian control advocates as best guided by the will of the people (as expressed by their political representatives), rather than left solely to an elite group of tactical experts. The military serves as a special government agency, which is supposed to implement, rather than formulate, policies that require the use of certain types of physical force.  Every General of every army wants more troops.  Perhaps they’re right, perhaps they’re wrong  – but a request for increased troop strength will always be the military strategy of first choice.  Yes, the President should listen, but the President also has to make policies that make sense for the millions of Americans who are not in the military. 

In April of 1951, President Harry Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur for insubordination.  MacArthur’s crime was to first send letters to congressional leaders disagreeing with President Truman’s policy and second, to deliver an ultimatum to the Chinese army that countermanded Truman’s policies.  George Will said that McChrystal’s comments did not rise to the level of a firing offense.  No?  A Commanding General publicly disagrees with the policies of the White House on foreign soil should be toast.

I have to say, I thought McChrystal should have “retired” when he did the “60 Minutes” interview a few weeks ago.  I certainly think he needs to be let go now.  A message needs to be sent throughout the military that there will be no more interviews, no more speeches, and no more free speech until they are retired. 

Then they can go on Fox News as analysts….


Hucka-bridge to Nowhere June 3, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in 2012, Christian Right, National Politics, New York Politics, Obama Administration, Presidential Politics, Republicans.
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mikehuckabeeOn today’s “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, host Joe Scarborough discussed a recent network poll about potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates.  Leading the pack was former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee at 23% with Alaska governor Sarah Palin close behind at 21%.  Former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney scored in at 13% – an earlier CNN poll showed Romney leading the field at 21%.  Lastly, former Florida governor and presidential sibling Jeb Bush received 6%.

The MSNBC poll was taken among self-identified Republicans (apparently they found some); the CNN poll was conducted on the general voting populace.  What is striking about these results is that among Republicans, the religious ultra-conservatives win.  When polling all Americans, however, a more moderate Republican – Romney – comes out on top.  As Scarborough pointed out, 44% of Republicans prefer a candidate so outside the mainstream of America that he or she can not win. 

These are bad days for Republican moderates.  Not only is the party expelling and expunging them, the the Obama administration is picking them off for cabinet posts and party-switching.  In a brilliant stroke, the administration tapped NY Republican congressman John McHugh as Secretary of the Army.  This follows the selection of Utah governor (and potential 2012 rival) John Huntsman as Ambassador to China, the defection of Arlen Spector, and the choice of former Republican congressman Ray LaHood of Illinois as Transportation Secretary.  The selection of McHugh leaves New York’s 29 Congressional districts with only two Republicans — one of whom, Christopher Lee of Amherst, is sure to see his district eliminated after the 2010 census (due to a falling population, New York will probably lose 2 congressional seats). 

Lest you think that New York doesn’t matter because we’re all a bunch of screaming liberals here, think again.  Those on the right that may sniff at New York losing Republicans should realize that as recently as 5 years ago, New York had 10 Republican congressional seats; in the early 1990’s there were as many as 17.  Outside of the cities, New York tends to be very fiscally conservative while being socially moderate.   Since the Republican party went full-on socially conservative, however, even moderate New York Republicans can not win.  Indeed, there are no Republican House members in all of New England – and only two Senators.

The Republican party is self-immolating.  By allowing their non-elected spokespersons (Cheney, Limbaugh, and the entire Fox News network) to define them and keep their base whipped up, they are alienating moderates and Independents from their camp.  Since base voters are the ones that vote in primaries and essentially pick the candidates, they are dooming themselves to becoming a Southern regional party with little national significance.

I think Americans have had it with the anti-intellectual that you’d feel comfortable having a beer with as President.  We don’t need a former Baptist minister that eats squirrels and eschews evolution as President.  We don’t need an ethically-challenged former beauty queen as president.  We don’t need people that believe in God – but believe in torture – leading us.

Truthfully, Romney is the guy that – as a Liberal – scares me.  If he can figure out a position on issues and stick with it, he would be a formidable opponent.  Americans have a near-reverence for businessmen and Romney has a successful history in business.  As Joe Scarborough pointed out this morning, had Romney been the 2008 candidate for President when the economy melted down in October, he very well could be sitting in the White House today.  That gives me the shivers – like a bad dream.   But, fortunately for Liberals and Progressives, the Republican base will never accept Romney.

I’ll continue to sleep easy.